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The Rollers are heading to Paris! Australia’s men’s wheelchair basketball team has secured their spot at the 2024 Paralympics with a thrilling 53-51 win over Iran in the final of the Asia Oceania Championships. 


In a contest befitting the apex of the tournament, the game went down to the very end with clutch free throws by Australia in the final minute helping them regain the lead and stave off a last ditch shot by Iran with three seconds to go.


As the final buzzer sounded, the Aussies embraced one another,  joyous at the realisation they’d just achieved what every para-athlete dreams of, a trip to the Paralympic Games.


Just Better Care Roller Hawk Luke Pople has been a part of the Australian program for over a decade, a gold medalist at both the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, going to a Paralympics is the one achievement that has eluded him thus far. Shawn Russell will return to the Paralympic arena 8 years after his first games in Rio and Tristan Knowles will notch up his sixth Paralympics and first as captain.


AOZ Tristan TOT Pool Game

(Photo Credit: Sportshooter / IWBF)


The Rollers got out to a fast start, three triples from as many attempts helped the Aussies push out to a 20-9 quarter time lead. But the Iranians fought back, scoring the first 7 points of the second quarter and the final 8 to make it a one point game at the main break.


Points were at a premium in the third quarter. Tom O’Neill-Thorne gave the Aussies a 35-30 advantage at the 7:54 minute mark, but neither side could get another basket for the next three and a half minutes, before Knowles sunk a three pointer to get the scoreboard moving.


Iran again came at Australia in the fourth. Omid Hadiazhar made back to back baskets early to give his side a 44-42 lead. A Knowles three pointer swung the lead back to Australia but Hadiazhar responded with a three of his own to give Iran the lead back 47-45.


A two and half minute period ensued where the score once again remained unchanged until Iran sunk a shot to stretch their lead to four. The sides then traded baskets before O’Neill-Thorne closed the gap to two with 2:01 left in the game. Iran then sent Shaun Norris to the free throw line with 1:01 to go. Norris made one of two to close within a point.


Norris then stole the ball on Iran’s next possession, before Bill Latham was fouled. The high-pointer sank both his free throws and gave Australia a 52-51 lead. Iran’s shot out of a time out was off the mark and as Australia looked to hold onto possession and the win, Iran fouled with nine seconds left, sending O’Neill-Thorne to the line once again. O’Neill-Thorne missed the first but made the second to see Australia lead 53-51.


Iran advanced the ball after a timeout and Mahdi Abbasishotoryeh got a good shot off to try and tie the game with three seconds to go but the ball hit the back of the rim as time expired, giving Australia the win and a ticket to Paris.

AOZ Hannah vs Thailand Bronze 1

(Photo Credit: Sportshooter / IWBF)


In the women’s, the Gliders have secured bronze with a 47-41 win over Thailand in the third place play-off. The Australians found themselves in a hole early with the host nation racing to a 15-8 first quarter lead. Jess Cronje made the opening bucket of the second quarter before Thailand was able to quickly break down Australia’s full court press for an easy lay-up, forcing coach Craig Campbell to burn an early time out.


From there the Gliders didn’t look back, dominating the rest of the period 14-4 to take a 23-21 half time lead. They remained in control in the third with Thailand unable to get a basket for the first five and a half minutes of the term. Georgia Munro-Cook took control at both ends of the court helping her team to a 34-25 lead with 10 minutes to play.


A lay up by Just Better Care Roller Hawk and Gliders captain Hannah Dodd stretched the lead to double digits with 6:30 left to play and from there Thailand couldn’t make enough of an inroad to truly challenge the Aussies. Two baskets in the final minute from Thailand closed the gap to six but Australia was able to run out the clock and secure the win.


The Gliders’ Paralympic dream remains alive. They’ll travel to Japan in April for an eight team repechage, with the top four earning the last four spots in Paris alongside the Netherlands, Great Britain, USA and China whose first place at this tournament saw them earn direct qualification. 


The Rollers join Great Britain, Spain and USA as already qualified for Paris, while the remaining four spots will be decided at a repechage in France, also in April.